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Headquarters

21 Nov

Oh. my. God. Besides being the most reasonable and down to earth coffee shop in Nashville, Headquarters has just blown my mind with their new ham and cheese croissants and spicy mocha.

Since I can’t take a good food picture to save my life, I’ve stolen theirs from their instagram. Usually only a slave to the power of suggestion with pizza, I was unable to resist the temptation to get anything other than what they posted several days ago.

Although they are known for their local honey latte, the spicy mocha blows it and any other coffee I’ve ever had out of the water -especially on a chilly morning.  The croissants are delicate and flaky, filled with savory ham and cheese with the perfect amount of grainy mustard.

My incredibly stressful Friday just got a little better thanks to James and Louisa at Headquarters!

10 Tapas to Try (Other Than Jamón) in Spain

14 Jul

As an American, I am dying to get my hands on the banned Jamón Ibérico (ham from black Iberian pigs that have been acorn fed) and Jamón Serrano (a dry, cured ham from the mountains) each time I visit Spain.

The thinly sliced ham is more than a cultural institution, it’s a way of life.  When you hold it up to the light, it’s as beautiful as looking through stained glass in the massive, imposing cathedral where you should be praying and hiding out from the inquisition. The jamón was a life saver of sorts at one time, as the one true way to prove your conversion was by eating pork…

BUT – there’s more to life than ham (probably).  Here are ten other tapas that are worthy of sharing the spotlight with jamón:

1. Aceitunas – Starting simply, aceitunas are olives.  Here in America, we are taught to praise Italy for their olive oil but little known fact is that most “Italian” olive oil comes from Spanish olives.  They are really the best in the world.  Many tapas bars will marinate them to be more savory, or stuff them with anchovies, as if they need more flavor.

2. Patatas Bravas – These fried potatoes are served differently at every bar you go to, but the one consistent thing is the spicy tomato based sauce covering the potatoes.  Spaniards love mayo, so it is not uncommon to also see these with a mixture of mayo and the spicy tomato sauce.

3. Pimientos de Padron – These peppers come from La Coruña and come skillet fried in oil.  Most are mild, but every once in a while you will find a spicy one.  It’s the best kind of gambling.

4. Chorizo – Spicy Spanish pork sausage that is usually pan fried in olive oil. The sausage itself is seasoned with smoked paprika and other herbs. It goes exceptionally well with a nice white wine, or vino blanco.

5. Queso Manchego – This is a sheep’s milk cheese that is firm and salty.  It has pretty serious regional restrictions, and only cheese made inside certain areas in La Mancha can be called Manchego.  Often, you will find it sliced, soaking in olive oil.  It will then be served on top of a slice of bread.

6. Tortilla – This is my absolute favorite and the only similarity it shares with a Mexian tortilla is that both are round.  Tortilla Española is made with first drenching potatoes in oil and frying them until they are soft.  Once the potatoes are soft, eggs are added and then flipped to make a frittata or quiche-like “pie.” It often also contains heavy amounts of onions and garlic and often even last night’s leftover vegetables.

7. Croquetas – Ask an Expat Spaniard what they miss most about home and 100% of them will mention food.  Some will say jamón, others will say tortilla, but most will say croquetas.  Croquetas are quite time consuming to make, which is why indulging on them at the bar is perfect.  They are made with a bechamel-like filling that is refrigerated and then breaded, mixed with jamón and then fried.  The result are little pockets of heaven.

8. Bacalao – cold, breaded cod served on bread.  I grew up land-locked and still don’t really trust fish.  Bacalao however, isn’t fishy and even at the diviest tapas bar, it will be fresh.  I only wish I could have more of it.

9. Albondigas – Meatballs.  As nontraditional as meatballs sound for Spanish cuisine, they have actually quite a history.  Spain was conquered for around 700 years by the Moors from Africa, and with them, they brought many new foods and additions to the old Spanish language. Al-bunduq (literally hazlenut, then used for things that are round) were spiced meatballs thought to be of Berber origin, then introduced to Spain during occupation.  They are typically soaking in a tomato sauce, and then served with a piece of bread as tapas.

10.  Boquerones – Anchovies.  I personally do not care for anchovies but the Spanish are wild for them.  You will see them everywhere, and tapas bars are the best place to try them out.  These are not your typical American grocery store tin of anchovies. These are larger, and always fresh.  They come fried and served with bread.

 

 

Nothing Fancy – Part 3

25 Apr

My mood is entirely weather-based, and today’s gloom in Nashville started my day off worse than waking up on the wrong side of the bed.  I had to take action, and luckily, Yeast Nashville bakery is on my way into work.   They have changing daily specials that always includes some sort of amazing egg casserole, soup and baked goods, but the stars of the show are their kolaches.

Never had a kolache?  Like the mighty armadillo, kolaches have made their way up to Tennessee by way of Texas and now there’s no turning back.  Although kolaches are traditionally Czech and Polish pastries, most Americans know them from the world famous Czech Stop, in West, Texas.  They can have a savory filling or are topped with sweetened cream cheese, fruit and/nuts.

jalapeno

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to:

1. BUY ROOSTER BREAD NOW FOR LATER.  They always, always, always sell out before the end of the day.  What is rooster bread you ask?  Why, it is only the finest sriacha and cheese blend loaf of bread this side of the Cumberland.

2.  Start with the classics.  While (seriously) everything Yeast Nashville makes turns to gold, the kolaches really are the best.  Try the jalapeno/sausage/cheese kolache to spice up your morning.

Also, as if you needed more of an incentive, they have incredible coffee. They serve Drews Brews which is pretty much the only coffee shop coffee that doesn’t either taste burned or like cigarettes.  And it’s local. Boom.

 

 

“Nothing Fancy” Series – Part 2

4 Apr

The next person who tells you they eat McDonald’s all the time because, “It’s so cheap,” tell them to eat more tacos!

Tacos should be simple – small corn tortillas, filled with meat and topped with onions and cilantro.  No exceptions.  However, to determine who has the “best” tacos, one should look to the sauce in my humble opinion.  A place has a bottle of Tabasco for your tacos?  “Getthefuggouttaheya,” or of course the Southern equivalent is, “Oh honey, bless your heart.”  Give me unlabeled containers of creamy green and dark reds with visible chili peppers in it, I’ll love you forever.

I’ve described the tacos at El Tapatio (4801 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211 – next to Whitt’s BBQ) as, “So good I forgot to look at my phone,” which, in these modern times, is really saying a lot.  But the sauce, the sauce!  For $4.90 I got two spicy pork tacos, one shrimp, pickled carrots, radishes, a green sauce and a red sauce.

tapatio

I have no idea what’s in the sauce, but I can tell you that it’s homemade, spicy as hell, and is better than anything else you’ll find on Nolensville Road. ¡Yo Quiero El Tapatio!

“Nothing Fancy” Series – Part 1

28 Mar

Some of the tastiest food in Nashville can be yours for five dollars or less.  In part one of my “Nothing Fancy” series,  I ventured out to Reina la Bendición, “The Queen’s Blessing,”  on 330 Timmons Street, just up from the Nolensville Pike/Thompson Lane intersection if you’re heading away from downtown.

Reina specializes in El Salvadorean food, and for those in the know, thaReinat means pupusas.  Pupusas are made from masa flour that has been stuffed with beans, cheese, pumpkin flower, meats, etc. and grilled to crispy perfection.  I asked for two bean and cheese pupusas and sat back to watch their tiny, busy kitchen as they hand made all of the food to order.

While their menu is fairly small (and entirely in Spanish), it makes up for it in big flavors.  Pupusas traditionally come with a cabbage slaw, and Reina’s is the best I’ve ever had.  It’s fresh, with hints of lime and spice to it.  Pupusas are a humble $2.25 each and come with a massive portion of (the best ever) slaw and hot sauce. Add a side of yuca frita (fried yuca) and nothing can ruin your day!

Come back next Friday for more in the  “Nothing Fancy” series to get the beat on what to eat, cheap!

 

 

Wilson County Fair

16 Sep

A haiku to immortalize the end of summer:

Monkeys riding dogs

Screams from the blurry, neon lights

Deep fried snickers bars

The Wilson County Fair (thirty miles outside Nashville) wins awards each year for being one of the best fairs in the Country.  If the Texas State Fair is THE State Fair, then the Wilson County Fair is THE fair.

Just some of my favorite things are the pig races (where some lucky lady will get herself declared “Pig Queen” for the winning pig – I’m Miss Piggy 2008), chocolate covered bacon on a stick, prize winning biscuits, blue ribbon chickens, outrageously large gourds and pumpkins, Fiddler’s Grove Historical Village (complete with a spectacular dioramas of a funeral and jail), bluegrass bands, rodeos, and a tractor pull.

It’s the perfect outdoor adventure for every honky tonk angel…

Eating Cheap at European Winter Markets

5 Jan

I’m a pretty annoying eater apparently.  I eat slowly, in really small amounts, and I can never finish my food unless it’s a fancy restaurant with tiny portions and weird sauces.  I am also pretty cheap so needless to say, especially when solo-traveling, I rarely eat ‘meals.’

Instead, I prefer to travel to Eastern Europe during the winter months for authentic, regional street food sold at Holiday markets.  For under three dollars a meal, you are guaranteed to get some portable, filling, and tasty fuel to keep you warm and on the go

Pro-tip:  Many markets close after New Year’s Day but Prague’s Christmas markets, for example, are open until January 13th.  Do your research so you won’t be disappointed.  

Below are my top six favorite things to eat (and drink) from European Holiday markets:

prague 8001.  Grilled or ‘fried’ cheese (Prague)- either Edam or Hermelin cheese that is lightly breaded, then either fried or grilled.  They put the salty, oozy cheese on a slice of rye bread and you can choose to top it with a dark berry marmalade.  WOA. BEST FOOD EVER.

2.  Liquid lunch (Europe)- All around the world, no matter the city, you will see vats of mulled wine (hot, spiced wine) that is sold for take-away so you can browse the Christmas markets.

Pro-tip: If you are in Budapest, you will notice there is very little plastic waste unlike the rest of Europe or in America.  At Holiday markets there, you buy hot wine and put a separate deposit down on the ceramic mug that they put your wine in.  You are free to either keep the mug and leave the deposit, or return the mug and get your deposit back.  

langos3.  Langos (Budapest)- Also referred to as Hungarian Pizza, this delectable treat is always fried potato dough, covered with sour cream and cheese, then up to you (or the region) as to what else you can add.  Try it with garlic sauce, onions and mushrooms.

Pro-Tip- for the BEST langos in Budapest, you don’t have to wait for winter.  You can get it all year round at the central market upstairs.  This is where you will get the freshest langos with more options for toppings than you can get at Christmas markets.  You will also see this in other countries throughout Europe, but it is authentically Hungarian (and better there).  

4.  Grilled Sausage (Europe)- Grilled sausage is just about the best lunch you can get.  It comes crackling off the grill and is placed on a large bun, where you can fill it with sauerkraut and mustard.  Seriously good, seriously cheap.

prague 7765.  ‘Chimney Cakes’ (Transylvanian Origin) – These are popular in Eastern Europe where the dough is rolled in cinnamon and sugar, wrapped around iron rods and placed over hot coals to cook.  They are a great breakfast snack; like a superior cinnamon toast.

6. Medovina (Central and Eastern Europe)- Medovina is mead, or fermented honey.  If you remember your Old English Epics, you will recall that Beowulf and his retinue drank heaps of mead at Herot.  It’s not great (it’s REALLY sweet), but it’s fun to drink and think about when men were warriors.

Warming up with Spirits in the Czech Republic: A Top Five Countdown

31 Dec

Many European cities require more from the common traveler to get the whole Experience with the requisite visiting of street vendors, participating in cafe ‘culture’, or spending a night’s stay in a hostel on a ‘good’ meal, but it’s different in Prague. Prague is for the drinkers.

Below is a countdown of my MUST try drinks for any visitor that wants to get to know Bohemia.  Fuck coffee.

prague 9115.  Svarek (hot wine)- This delightful drink is available during the cold months by many vendors for take-away.  It is especially omnipresent at the Christmas markets during December.  Do yourself a favor and grab a to-go cup of hot wine and sit down in the Old Town Square to people watch while you enjoy your wine.

4.  Pivo (beer)- DUH.  The Czech Republic is known for beer like Kentucky is known for Bourbon.  The first known brewery dates to the year 1118 and the hops grown there to make the beer have been exported since the 12th century.  The most famous beers are Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar, but one interesting beer to try is in the Castle District at Saint Norbert’s Brewery in operation since the 17th Century (look for signs that say Strahovský klášter, or in English Strahov Monastery).

The monastery is the only place that you can try Saint Norbert’s beer and with no Pilsner option, it is different than other breweries you find get in Prague.  The beer is seasonal so in winter time they have a strong dark beer that actually feels like Christmas.  During the summer months they offer a lighter, refreshing beer.

3.  Becherovka One thing you will notice is that Czech people often talk of ‘herbs’ and when they buy you a drink they will most often give you Becherovka.  The recipe is the best kept secret in Central Europe and since no one has a damn clue what is in it, they swear it’s good for your health even though it’s strong enough to knock down a door.  I happen to LOVE it, so even though you will have no choice, try it!

prague 5952.  Slivovice- If you’ve ever had moonshine, this is pretty close to that.  A liquor that is made from plums, it is certainly a Czech national treasure.  They also have less ‘offensive’ versions with pear and apricot.

Pro-Tip: In the last few months the government placed a temporary prohibition on production of alcohol over 20% due to a rash of fatal methanol poisonings.  The prohibition is over, but the Czech Republic still does not require a license to brew these liquors.  If you are going to buy any of the liquors (beer and wine are ok) make sure that you buy them from a grocery store or other reputable place and DOUBLE CHECK to ensure the seal has not already been broken.  If the seal has been broken, do not purchase the alcohol. 

And now for my number one choice of best booze in Czech Republic…

1. Citrus Fernet– If you are a drinker, and I imagine you are if you’re still with me, I bet you have had Fernet: Jagermeister’s classier sister that doesn’t make you throw things.  This classic Czech drink unbeknownst to me also comes in a citrus flavor that is fantastic.  Buy one for all of your new friends and cheers to enjoying life in Prague.

My 5 Favorite Slices in New York (and one in New Jersey)

13 Dec

I know, I know. Everyone knows the best pizza in New York is Grimaldi’s, right? Please. I’m talking slices, not sit down. Slices that you can grab and go and not have to wait an hour for. They may not be the best, but they are my favorites.

iphone pics incl. paris and prague 4251. Artichoke Basille’s Pizza– Artichoke slice: They have only a few different slices to choose from, but the star of the show is the Artichoke slice. It is a huge, thick slice slathered with hot artichoke dip for sauce and covered in fresh mozzarella, baked to a bubbling, golden brown.

I wish I was banished to a deserted island so I could choose this as the only thing I eat for the rest of my life. $4 is totally worth the price (14th Street between 1st and 2nd Aves (212) 228-2004).

2. Pizza Gruppo Truffle pizza: If you want the truffle pizza but don’t want to sit in a restaurant, go to Gruppo. Grab some truffle slices and head down to my favorite loner haunt Mona’s, an interesting Irish bar down the street. Trust me, you’ll love it. Gruppo has the thinnest crust I’ve seen in NY, which is saying something. (Gruppo- 186 Ave B (212) 995-2100, Mona’s 14th and B)

3 Certe Pizza– Saw-seech slice: I used to have to work in Midtown Manhattan, known as lunchtime wasteland. This place, NY’s first official ‘green’ pizzeria, was the best thing that opened up in that neighborhood, and still is to my knowledge as far. I go back every time i’m in Manhattan for the saw-seech slice, a little spicy with crumbled chicken sausage, rappini, and red peppers. They also have amazing infused garlic or pepper olive oils to dip your crusts into! (132 East 56th Street, (212) 813-2020)

iphone pics incl. paris and prague 4564. Driggs Pizza Grandma slice: directly off the Bedford L there’s a whole lot of haircuts and expensive hip places, but if you exit off the Driggs side instead of Bedford and turn the corner, you will see Driggs Pizza, that has been in the neighborhood since 1968, which is quite a long time for ever-changing Williamsburg.

They have the best for your worst hangovers, and my favorite is the Grandma slice. It is pesto, red sauce and fresh cheese that is simple, and cheap. Don’t forget to get a few pepperoni bites for the road. (558 Driggs (718) 782-4826)

5. La Bella Mariella: This place has changed names a couple of times, but the menu stays the same. People either love or hate this one but I think that’s because they haven’t ordered the Vodka slice. The pizza is a perfect NY thin crust with tangy vodka sauce and cheese. I LOVE this slice and it’s super convenient if you are going to see a show at the Knitting Factory. (374 Metropolitan (718) 963-2378)

*Disclaimer before I get death threats- Roberta’s is awesome too; just not in my top 5.

5.5. And for New Jersey, it’s Benny Tudino’s: If you are going to see a show at Maxwells, take the time to stop by this place for a plain slice- don’t get fancy. This one is my favorite plain slice, or “cheese slice” hands down. They have the best sauce I have ever tasted because it actually tastes like tomatoes and doesn’t have any sugar added to it. It is also ‘home of the largest slice.” (622 Washington Street, Hoboken, NJ (201) 792 – 4132)

Top Five Holiday Things to do in Nashville

27 Nov

1.  A Country Christmas at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel- complete with World’s Largest Nativity and thousands of lights.  Park at Opry Mills mall next door and walk over to avoid a hefty parking fee at the hotel.  Otherwise, free.

The off the beaten path option (I’d recommend seeing both!) right next to the Opryland Hotel is Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at the RV park.  It is a drive-thru dancing light display with music and even Santa.  $2 per carload.  2572 Music Valley Drive, Nashville, TN.

2.  The Nutcracker at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center– December 9-23rd come see the Nashville Ballet and the Nashville Symphony beautifully perform this classic Christmas ballet.  From $35.  505 Deadrick Street, Nashville, TN.

Pro Tip:  Before the show, pop in to the Hermitage Hotel around the corner and go to the Oak Bar for an excellent cocktail and beautiful architecture.  The Oak Bar did not allow women for many years so make sure to take a peek at the opulent men’s bathroom (yes, even women).  231 6th Avenue North, Nashville, TN.

3.  Dickens Christmas in Franklin- Victorian street festival with period food and drink, horse drawn carriages, a Christmas market, your favorite Christmas Carol characters such as Ebineezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, as well as a town sing a long at 4:30.  December 8-9, 10 am – 5 pm Saturday, 12 pm to 5 pm Sunday.  Free.  510 Columbia Avenue, Franklin, TN

4.  Chad Bernard’s Holiday Lights– one of the nation’s largest displays of lights AND it’s a drive-thru.  This is true Nashvegas glitz. $10 per car.  Eat more rhinestones baby!  791 E Old LaGuardo Rd., Lebanon, TN.

5.  Walk-thru Bethlehem– You may have heard that Nashville is Music city.  One thing that will also become abundantly clear when you visit is that Nashville loves it’s churches.  The walk thru Bethlehem at Woodmont Church has goats, sheep, etc. and is supposed to be a window into Ancient Israel.  You’ve got to see it to believe it folks. December 9th 1-7 only.  Free. 3601 Hillsboro Road, Nashville, TN.

Pro-Tip:  After, go for a drink at the Greenhouse down the street.  It’s a truly hidden Nashville gem literally in a greenhouse filled with plants.  2211 Bandywood Drive, Nashville, TN.  Mon-Sun 5 pm- 3 am.  

Foodie Friday

16 Nov

I’ve been wanting to try the Peppercheese sandwich at Pepperfire, a deep fried pepper jack cheese sandwich, for quite some time and today is the day!  The deep fried sandwich is fried a perfect golden brown with oozy, warm pepper jack cheese melted in between.  It was so good I didn’t even start to feel guilty until I got to the second half.

If you want to pull some Man Vs. Food level eating, try the cleverly dubbed Tenders Royale, the peppercheese topped with hot chicken (light mild, mild, medium, hot, x-hot, or xx-hot).  Everything is made to order so you’re actually getting fresh, fast food but if you’re in a hurry, you’ll definitely want to call ahead.

Pepperfire Hot Chicken 2821 Gallatin Pike, (East) Nashville, TN 37216.  (615) 582-4824

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